A cellphone found near a site in Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris is likely providing police with vital clues as they attempt to find the terror network behind the massacre that left 129 people dead, according to experts.
Citing a source with knowledge of the investigations, Reuters reported Tuesday that the cellphone had a map of the Bataclan concert hall – where terrorists killed 89 people -- and a message on it saying words to the effect of “let’s go.” The source also confirmed reports on the French website Mediapart and CNN that the phone was found in a dustbin near the music venue that was stormed by gunmen Friday night.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the phone led police to a hotel suite in the southeast Paris suburb of Alfortville that had been used by some of the attackers.
Speaking during a press conference Wednesday Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed that a phone thrown into a dustbin outside the Bataclan theater contained a text message saying that the attack was about to begin. Molins noted that authorities are trying to work out who the message was sent to.
While specific details of the police investigation have not been revealed, experts say that the police are likely mining a trove of valuable data on the cellphone.
“The cellular device was likely found to contain lists of access points [cell sites or wireless access points] to which the device was connected as it was carried by an individual,” explained communications expert John B. Minor, who has assisted in suspected murder cases, in an email to FoxNews.com. “This could lead law enforcement to geographical areas such as city blocks, where additional investigative work could turn leads, such as an apartment recently occupied.”
Minor also noted that the cellphone, depending upon the brand and model, may contain GPS coordinates and other date and time metadata that could assist law enforcement in reconstructing the timing and movement of the individual carrying the device. “This data would be much more accurate and could lead directly to a rendezvous point or other safehouse,” he added.
“[The cellphone] could be a valuable tool,” Raymond Foster, a retired LAPD lieutenant, told FoxNews.com. “Beyond getting the GPS data off it, you could also do more simple stuff – there could be DNA and fingerprint data on it.”
Foster, author of "Police Technology," notes that even if the cellphone was a “burner,” or prepaid phone, it could still provide valuable leads to police as they attempt to find the terrorist network. “Every phone has an Electronic Serial Number – from that you can trace back to the manufacturer and the retail point of sale, even for a ‘burner’,” he said.
At least two terror suspects were killed, including a woman wearing a suicide vest who blew herself up, and as many as seven others were arrested, after police stormed a suburban Paris apartment early Wednesday, targeting the alleged mastermind behind the massacre in the French capital.
Investigators traced the mastermind to that apartment by tracking phone conversations and piecing together surveillance images and witness accounts, according to Molins and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazenueve.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers